For those wishing to explore the back country of Denali National Park in Alaska one of the requirements that the Rangers insist upon is that the avid hikers must take with them a bear-proof container. This is a small, barrel-shaped container which also proves itself to be human proof if you don't carry a screw driver with you to open it. The containers are designed to keep your hiking food in so that you and not the bears dine on it.
Does anyone see the problem with this?
I thought so. If a hungry bear cannot get the human food out of the canister, then he might instead try to get the human food out of the human himself! With the human it is a lot less aggravating to get the wrapping off. It's like the difference when we have a can of tuna and a candy bar to eat but no can opener. A few bits of thermal clothing and parkas are nothing to experienced bear claws.
One might question if the Park Rangers are aware of this problem. Don't bother asking- THEY ARE ENTIRELY BEHIND IT!!!!! That's right - THEY SUPPORT IT 100%!!! Behind those cute, boy scout-like earnest faces, starched uniforms, dorky hats, and benign smiles are sinister smiles. Look at the logic of it:
People come to Denali to see bears.
Denali is mostly tundra with limited food resources.
No food, no bears.
No bears, less tourists.
Less tourists, less work for Rangers.
Less work for Rangers, Rangers must go out and get real, miserable jobs like the rest of us.
The Rangers have thereby made a pact with the bears as evil as that which Stalin signed with Hitler.
Bears need to eat much in the summer. A LOT of food. Yet tons of fresh fodder is delivered to the park everyday by buses and trains. Fresh meat of all shapes, sizes and textures is virtually delivered to the bear's doorstep in droves. Food that will of its own free will walk into the wild country and present itself and I don't mean Domino's Pizza. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I mean tourists! That bastion of Alaska's summer economy! That natural resource that dresses in moose t-shirts and Alaskan baseball caps! That element of the food chain that looks to bears like walking corn dogs!
Rangers, being resourceful individuals, have not overlooked the practicality of this. How much more convenient can it be to have your food come in on it's own two legs well packaged in cotton, nylon and wool? Among the Denali bears the 3:30 Anchorage train is referred to as 'Meals On Wheels'.
Most tourists stay within the confines of the Visitors Center and the RV sites, but a few intrepid, adventuresome and, most importantly for the bears sake, well fed souls wander into the back country to experience Nature intimately, perhaps more intimately than they expected.
Campers are supposed to set up their sites in a triad form- the tent at one corner of a pyramid shape with the cooking area and food storage area 300 feet away from each other. Any smart bear would simply watch the following scenario and figure things out for himself- The camper comes out of his tent, wanders over to the bear proof container, takes out his food, wanders over to the cooking area, cooks and eats his food, then wanders back to the tent. And what would your smarter-than-the average-bear do with this observation? He would watch, wait and when the hiker is back in the tent at the end go down and get all his food at once in one convenient location much like the drive through at McDonald's. It would be like getting a giant breakfast burrito with everything in one wrap. The tent is also a much easier package to undo than the bear proof container.
Can the Rangers truly be this evil to play a part in this sordid affair? I'm sorry to say it goes even deeper. The bear proof containers (which will be hereafter referred to as 'The bear provocation devices') have a second sinister purpose. They also slow down a hiker by having to carry their extra weight. No sense in making the bear work too hard getting his much needed calories for the winter. Just give the hiker a little extra weight to bog them down enough for the bear to catch up with them easily. That puts the food chain back in the proper order.
The local bears get a great kick out of greeting the campers in the back country in their own special way. A camper in a sleeping bag next to a campfire is referred to as a 'Hot Pocket'. An oriental in a sleeping bag is an 'egg roll', a Latino is a 'Chimaerical', and a white person is a 'wrap'. Skinny hikers are named 'crunchy style', short ones are 'McNuggets' and hippies are considered 'exotic flavored'.
Rangers also have a Faustian deal worked out with the people who make the little silver 'bear bells' that hikers are supposed to attach to themselves to let a bear know you are in the area and supposedly cause them to avoid you. Hardly. There's nothing like having a dinner bell chiming on your body to set a bears saliva glands in motion and announce to all that dinner is approaching. The Ranger's retirement program apparently receives 10% of every bell sold. So twisted are these government servants that next years model of the bells will be made out of lead to further enhance the 'catch-ability' of the wearer.
Once acquired, bear provocation containers provide great entertainment for the bear. The first fun part is catching the hiker with one. Then comes the joy of ripping open the backpack it is in, much like the happiness of kids opening Christmas presents. Then they can play soccer with the canister until it breaks open and they can go after it like kids breaking a pinata. For desert, there is always the hiker himself. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?